Launching the Open Government Network Wales

by Jetske Germing
I’ve recently been appointed as Open Government Network Officer for Wales, based at WCVA. A new project, the Open Government Pioneers Project has been set up to build the capacity of people and civil society across the United Kingdom to contribute and input to policy-making and service delivery in progressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and in Wales, the Future Generations Goals.
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), in partnership with the Wales Council for Voluntary Organisations (WCVA), Involve, and Northern Ireland Environment Link, has been awarded a £500k Big Lottery Fund grant to work together over two years to support people to engage and challenge their governments to serve them better. There will be a particular focus in supporting people who are not normally heard in the decisions that affect them, and the connection between citizens and devolved governments of the UK home nations – not just Westminster.

Only a short while into the project I feel grateful to have had a high profile opportunity to launch the Open Government Pioneers project in Wales on the 7th March at the gofod 3 event. The panel discussion chaired by Anna Nicholl, Director of Strategy and Sector Development at WCVA started with an introduction to the panel’s work in relation to Open Government and their hopes for the Open Government Pioneers Network in Wales. Panel members included Owain Ap Gareth, Electoral Reform Society, Caren Fullerton, Chief Digital Officer Welsh Government, Kevin Davies, Head of Engagement National Assembly Wales and Peter Davies, Chair of WCVA Trustee Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development and Chair of the Customer Challenge Group Dwr Cymru. For a summary of the discussion please see

If you are interested in being part of the Open Government Pioneers Network Wales, please do connect with us. Our next steps will be to establish the priorities for the Network, with input from Third Sector Networks, Government and other sectors.
Open Government Forum
Twitter @opengovcymru


A Time Bank for Wales? Workshop & Seminar update

Edgar Cahn and Chris Gray came over from the States to help with the Timebanking Workshop and follow-up Welsh Government Seminar – both cracking events with lots of enthusiasm, plentiful ideas and, most importantly, a pile of commitments to action.

These included one from us! We’ve offered to act as a central communications point for all this activity, and to share information about time-banking with our Networks. Here are some useful links

Spice is a UK-wide social enterprise originating in Wales that develops agency timebanking systems for communities and public services. The site includes links to evidence of the impact of time-banking, media coverage and new models for development.

 Time Banking Wales

Resources, contacts and extensive experience of time credits and their capacity to strengthen communities and transform the lives of individuals.

Lots of organisations have promised to spread the word about time banking – what it is, what it can achieve, and how it works. They include WLGA, WCVA, PHW (who will explain the principles and process to local health boards), Welsh NHS Federation and the Big Lottery who will work with Spice and WLGA to share this information as widely as possible.

Might be an idea to get together to produce a fact sheet + resources so that we are all using the most relevant and up-to-date information. Any offers of help with this?

In addition, there was a proposal of using Welsh Government staff  5 Volunteering Days for piloting time banking within the Welsh Government, the Chief Medical Officer will work closely with us to identify academic partners for time banking. Prof Edgar Cahn also suggested software for time banking could be tested in Wales.

 Look out for information about the Time-banking Conference which will be held in the new year to provide updates about the actions and move us one step closer to the Finance Secretary’s aspiration for a time bank for Wales.


Seminar in the Welsh Assembly: There’s (much) more to life than services

You can take a horse to water… – Bob Rhodes, Lives through Friends
It was at the end of the launch of the Coproduction Network for Wales that an opposition AM approached me to ask whether I would be able to convene a session for new Members of the Welsh Assembly and their advisors to give them some background to the principles of strengths-based practice and co-production that are emblazoned so boldly in recent legislation – especially relating to Social Care and Wellbeing and Future Generations. We did something similar 4 years ago.
A date was agreed for a midday seminar and during the planning it soon emerged that we would be expected to feed our visitors – “they probably will go elsewhere otherwise?” We invested from our own pockets to satisfy this expectation!
Our emphasis for the seminar was essentially to share some of the best practice in community building and social care in Wales in the context of the obstacles and contrary systems conditions that the best leaders and practitioners need to overcome in order to achieve the results for which they are so appropriately respected. Leaders and practitioners in 9 leading edge agencies plus representatives of people who use public services and carers gave their time to planning and delivering an informative and collaborative event and, when the day arrived, only the sponsoring AM, one of his colleagues, and a press officer from the most relevant Cabinet Secretary’s team attended.
From this we can only adduce that the successful implementation, which will inevitably necessitate amendments, of Assembly policies on public services have little priority or interest for our elected representatives? With one exception, the subject of how we care for each other in Wales and the nature of the relationship between citizens and their institutions that impacts upon this did not even warrant AM’s delegating attendance to a researcher or advisor. We “led the horse to water” and ended up doing all the drinking (and eating) ourselves.
Our three hours together strengthened our Network but left us with little optimism that our life and career long experiences of rowing against the tide and working against the grain will ever change. The introduction of systemic co-production poses a deep-set culture change challenge for institutions in Wales – and that starts at the top.

A Better Future – Co-production in Torfaen

What would social care for people with learning disabilities look like if the people who used services designed, developed and decided what was needed?

In Torfaen and across the counties of Gwent we are on the brink of finding out.

As a former manager of provider services, I am personally challenged but ultimately excited by the prospect. I am convinced that the people who have experience of receiving services are a beacon of good sense and that many of the best ideas in social care come from the grassroots.

In October this year, I began the journey as innovation and development manager in Torfaen County Borough Council. The post, funded by the intermediate care fund, has the brief to coproduce a plan for new ways of working and delivering services for people with learning disabilities.

I have been lucky enough to enlist the excellent support of Barod (a training and information company whose owners are a mix of disabled and non-disabled people), Torfaen People First and other People First groups across Gwent as advisors and co-producers respectively.

Together we have developed some principles for our work:

  • People with experience of using services will decide upon the final recommendations
  • We will make sure that the voices of people with learning disabilities are put first
  • All the documents we produce will be as accessible as possible
  • We will work with other people and organisations involved with people with learning disabilities to include their ideas
  • We will find out about the best ideas and make them accessible
  • We will involve people using their strengths
  • People will be reimbursed for their time and expenses
  • We will use person centred communication

The final report will be published in April 2017, concluding a series of workshops and network events across Gwent. It will be easy read and will include business cases for new services and enterprises.

We have found many examples of good practice but would be interested to hear from anyone who has good ideas, knows of something that works well or wants to help in other ways.

Jim Wright – Innovation and Development Manager Torfaen County Borough Council

Mindfulness and Social Change (member-led network)

How can mindfulness support people working to promote sustainability, social justice and wellbeing in society? How can mindfulness training and practice in mainstream settings help or hinder efforts to address the systemic causes of social, economic and environmental problems? And what is the relationship between individual and social change?

These are some of the questions being explored by the Mindfulness and Social Change Network, a group of people working on issues such as equality, international development and climate change, whose mindfulness practice is at the core of their personal and professional lives. The Network now has over 70 members, and has run a workshop and a retreat, and is planning further events next year.

There are serious debates to be had in this area. Given the size and scale of many of the social, environmental and economic problems that we face, collaborating with others, through networking or forming coalitions, is a crucial strategy for making significant systemic change. People working for NGOs, charities and community organisations face significant pressure over funding, demonstrating impact and responding to complex, interwoven challenges. Many risk burn out, which affects the quality and longevity of their engagement in social change. Mindfulness training, particularly focusing on stress reduction, can promote resilience and mobilise people’s inner resources to support them through challenging situations. However, can mindfulness training be tailored to address deeper structural and systemic social and environmental issues?

The Mindfulness and Social Change Network aims to work together to explore these and other related questions. Members of the network include mindfulness practitioners from various European countries who have/are working for Oxfam GB, WWF, Amnesty International, UN bodies and a range of universities including Aberystwyth, Cardiff and the Open University. Please get in touch with Paula Haddock and Luke Wreford for further information about the network.

Inaugural Meeting: North Wales Social Value Forum Steering Group

A group of like-minded and motivated individuals from across third, independent and statutory sectors have joined forces in North Wales to explore how to promote social value in public services.

This Steering Group met for the first time in November 2016 and began to explore how North Wales’ partners can:

  1. i) Promote the development of not for private profit organisations (including social enterprises, co-operative organisations, co-operative arrangements, user led services and the third sector) to provide care and support and support for carers, and preventative services. A duty placed on Local Authorities and their Health Board partners under Part 2, section 16 of the Social Services & Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014
  1. ii) Promote collaboration with an aim of maximising social value and coproduction(the involvement of people for whom care & support or preventative services are to be provided, in the design and operation of that provision) across all sector providers delivering health, social care and/or wellbeing services in North Wales

We intend to meet every 4 – 6 weeks and will agree a Terms of Reference and annual Work Programme.

We actively want to engage with citizens and providers, to develop local community based forums and wish to have a role in supporting and co-ordinating any of the existing great work that is ongoing in each county.

A key objective will be to share learning across the region, we have gratefully accepted an invitation offered by Cwm Taf Social Value Forum to learn together and share developments. We have also made links with Co-Production Network Wales and the Wales Co-operative Centre’s Care to Co-operate project in order to share asset maps and best practice.

Call to share knowledge & expertise:

We have been reviewing the Code of Practice to support Part 2 of the Social Services & Wellbeing Act and are considering our definition of ‘social value’. We understand that there are many definitions that range in context from public sector procurement definitions to those which focus on additional wellbeing benefits and increasing social capital.

If you would like to share your definition, to support us to develop ours, or would like to make other links with our steering group or please contact Maria Bell.

Poetry, football, and ballroom dancing – “unexpected ways” to reduce alcohol harm


Communities Together is a community development project in north Pembrokeshire. It’s a project about facing up to alcohol issues in our communities – but one that didn’t begin with questions about alcohol at all.

Here in Wales, much like our neighbours across the British Isles, we don’t always have the healthiest relationship with alcohol. Doctors and public health workers have been telling us for decades to cut back. It’s a simple message, but in our complicated lives it’s not always an easy one to follow.

Telling people to live healthier lives doesn’t work. But what happens if we ask people what good health would look like for them? The pioneering American alcohol researcher Dr Harold Holder has urged “the well-intentioned people who introduce programmes into communities”, to engage with the community, relinquish control, and be prepared for things to happen in “unexpected ways”. That’s exactly what we did. Poetry, football, and ballroom dancing have been just some of the “unexpected” outcomes.

We believe that we’ve created a new paradigm for getting to grips alcohol issues in our communities. To find out more, contact the Project Manager,
Marc Mordey.

co-production, communities